July 6, 2011 By Zain Iqbal
A trip to San Francisco isn’t complete without visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, arguably the most iconic landmark around and a site that Frommer’s Travel once described as “possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world.”
Almost 120,000 people use the bridge by car to cross to and from Marin and San Francisco on a daily basis; however, if you really want to take it all in up-close then your best bet is by bike. Sure, we may be a little biased at Blazing Saddles, but we’ll offer some trivia and give you some pointers so you’ll experience the bridge and all its glory as a “Modern Wonder of the World.”
There are lots of reasons why biking across the bridge offers one of the best experiences in San Francisco (trust us, we could go on forever) but for the sake of brevity we’ll just throw some of the highlights your way and leave the rest of the exploration to you.
ROUTE TIPS AND MUST-KNOW TRIVIA
From Fisherman’s Wharf near Blazing Saddles HQ, it’s almost 4 miles to the start of the bridge. Your initial route takes you on a dedicated bike route and offers views of some of San Francisco’s most iconic landmarks and popular outdoor spaces, such as Fort Mason, Alcatraz, and the Palace of Fine Arts.
If you’re looking for a little morning jolt, you can either make a detour toward the city’s popular Marina District where there are plenty of coffee shops and bakeries to get you charged up, or you can check out the Warming Hut on Crissy Field. Once an old army shed, the Warming Hut now serves up snacks, beverages and drinks to visitors biking in and around Crissy Field, which up until the early 1990s was managed by the military. Today, the National Park Service manages this completely restored tidal area as part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area.
After a small climb above Crissy Field, you’ll get your first clear views of the span with the bike path eventually leading to the Golden Gate Bridge Visitor’s Center. Blazing Saddles riders Siemen and Ellen from Belgium, and Mirjam and Steven from Holland asked us to take their pictures along this route, so we obliged as long as they modeled for us in return!
And now the real fun begins as you make your way across the 4,200 foot span of the bridge from San Francisco to Marin County—currently the ninth longest suspension bridge in the world. When it was finished in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was the world’s longest suspension bridge until it was surpassed by the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City in 1964. However, when it comes to style points, the Golden Gate Bridge is arguably second-to-none.Typically, the east side of the bridge is for pedestrians while the west side is for cyclists (the bridge is currently undergoing maintenance; therefore, until September 2011 pedestrians and cyclists will share the east walkway.) Unless the city is enveloped in fog, which can happen between late June and mid September, you’ll have plenty of awesome photo ops of downtown San Francisco, Alcatraz, and the East Bay.
Once you get up close, you’ll notice the bridge’s slick Art Deco design from the 1930s — the brainchild of architect Irving Morrow – as well as the color scheme, which is not actually red but technically International Orange. The paint is specially formulated to resist the continuous fog that rolls in over the bay and helps ships and low-flying aircraft use the bridge as a marker.
Once you’ve crossed into Marin County, a quick left will take you to Vista Point Overlook, offering more awesome views of the entire Bay Area. From here you’ve got a few options. If you just can’t get enough photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, then cross under the highway via a pedestrian path and ride up Conzelman Road to Hendrik Point—here you can wander around the ruins of an old U.S. Army artillery battery from the 1940s, and you’ll almost be at eye-level with the bridge’s awesome towers. If you feel you’re deserving of lunch and a victory drink, you can wind downhill Alexander Avenue toward Sausalito, fill up on seafood and beers and take the ferry back to the city. Of course, you can always backtrack and take in the bridge once more, and hit up the Marina for some lunch and picnic on the Marina Green.
Need some other route ideas? Blazing Saddles has plenty. We’ll have highlight lots more in the near future, but in the meantime check out some suggested self-guided tours here. Happy trails!